The Vision - A Poem from the Shows

 
 

THE VISION


This poem (apart from the first seven lines, and with a slightly different ending) first appeared in Getting Nowhere - Again. It then worked its way into the Cabaret Act, and also into the later versions of Brecht on Magic. I've had many requests for copies from people who have heard it, and it has been recited at weddings, funerals, and even a secular barmitzvah. You are welcome to use it at your event, or just to read it for your own pleasure. Let me know what you think of it.

[Fist emerging from top hat holding wand with red stars]"The world has changed," they said, "all your ideals
Mean nothing now, they won't buy any meals.
Hard cash is what we live by, and our mission
Is beat the others, win the competition.
Our system rules this planet, always will"
They blustered and they bullied me until
I quite forgot - why was I Socialist? ...
 
... Then in the distance I saw a mist
And the mist turned into a cloud.
And as I stood and watched, each drop           
Of vapour turned into a face.  The crowd
Moved around me in laughter and song    
With eyes that were bright and voices strong            
Each face separate and distinct.        
Though all in common purpose linked.    
But who were these people?  Somehow I knew              
That if only I guessed, my guess would be true.         
And so I decided that one band of figures
From centuries past were Winstanley's diggers           
Proclaiming all folk were of equal worth
To share in the treasures of the Earth. 
Some Luddites were holding a great hammer high          
They'd been slandered by history, but I could see why   
They'd set about smashing their masters' machines       
Which were not tools of progress, but used as a means   
To steal from these people their labour and skill      
And ensure they were bent to their masters' will.       
Some faces I knew - Paul Robeson was giving             
Full voice to a tune that said Joe Hill was living.     
Joe smiled, and agreed that in each mine and mill    
Where the workers were fighting his spirit lived still. 
Mary Seacole was resting from easing the pain           
Of those men sent to die so their rulers might gain.    
She's forgotten by history - her skin wasn't pale    
Though she healed just as surely as Nurse Nightingale.       
Harriet Tubman rejoiced with the slaves that she'd freed
From those 'civilised' gentlemen driven by greed.       
From Central America, no more invisible 
Those who vanished from lands where dissent's not permissible.          
Karen Silkwood, who died fighting nuclear might.         
Blair Peach - killed by police for supporting the right 
To protest against fascism.  Others who'd died          
Fighting fascist battalions in Spain's countryside.     
There was Sacco, Vanzetti.  There were Suffragettes too. 
There were miners and matchgirls, and some people who   
Had been friends of mine.  They died with much still to give
But they'd all used their lives to find new ways to live.
Gazing in awe on this great panorama    
I wondered what part it could play in my drama.         
Then, as I wondered, they all spoke in chorus:
"There's something," they said "that we'd quite like done for us
"We are dead, and our life's work is not yet fulfilled
For we all tried, in some different manner, to build
A world that is decent and honest and fair
Where we all get what's needed, and what's left we share
But the world is not like that - that's clear and that's plain
And we're not blaming you, but don't make it in vain
That we lived lives of struggle - continue the fight
While you live, you can change things - we know that that's right."
And I looked, and I saw that in each of their eyes
Stood a part of a new world, and to my surprise
I could now see what they saw, and so understood
We become fully human by working for good.
We may fail, but it's better to know that we've been
A part of humanity - not a machine.
My strength was redoubled, my hope was renewed
As I shared in the vision of these comrades who'd
Bequeathed us their talent, their wisdom, their love
And the knowledge that our deeds can make the world move.
 
In my original performance, the poem continued from "not a machine" with the lines:
I stood there renewed, thinking "no, life's not tragic"
Then they piped up again and said "Show us some magic"

I then did a magic trick in which a representative of the bourgeoisie (originally Margaret Thatcher)  and a nuclear missile were made to vanish in a red box representing socialism and internationalism.